Edward Everett Yates dreamed of becoming a Major League baseball player, but he ultimately got to play in just one game that didn’t even count. After toiling in the minor leagues for a decade, he is called up to play for the Cardinals in the summer of 1976. Then, a catastrophic knee injury dashes his hopes of proving himself in a game that gets called on account of rain before getting through the necessary five innings, meaning that Edward Everett’s career won’t even register in the record books. This failure haunts Edward for the next three decades, spurring him to make bad decision after bad decision in his quest to prove himself as someone who matters.
Thirty years later, Edward Everett is still trying to prove himself, now as the manager of a failing single-A team in Iowa. His wife has just left him and he can’t shake the worry that he will be out of a job at the end of the season.
It’s impossible to not compare this book to The Art of Fielding
. Both books use baseball as a metaphor for the difficulties of life, highlighting the careers of flawed-but-determined players in Midwestern small towns. Schuster’s effort is more modest in scope and in style. Most of what happens is relatively unremarkable, but that is ultimately why it works: Edward Everett Yates wanted a life larger than the one he’s lived, and he’s sacrificed nearly everything in pursuit of that goal.
My one complaint about this book is that Schuster occasionally over-complicated the timeline, bouncing back and forth between the before and after of a given event in ways that were often less-than-graceful and sometimes confusing. Overall, though, it was a compulsively readable first novel about never giving up.